Monday, January 12, 2015

Volunteering at the WDW Marathon

After an eventful day this morning, we got to sleep around 5 or 6, before waking up again around midnight to get ready for our voluntEAR shift at the Walt Disney World Marathon!

We had picked up our credentials yesterday before checking in to the hotel, which involves signing some waivers (legal stuff), getting a bag for your things, a lanyard and a letter that you exchange for a free park ticket at the end of your shift.

Our shift was scheduled to start at 2am, but first we had to go check in at the VoluntEAR tent at Blizzard Beach. We got there around 1:45.  I had the brilliant idea to wear a SparkleSkirt over tights instead of jeans this time, but the weather was not cooperating, so my first task was to throw on a lot more layers (it was COLD!) Then we had our bag checked by security and we headed in to the VoluntEAR tent to check in for our shift.

Our badge (on the lanyard) was scanned. We headed to the first table to pick out our windbreakers.  Our second stop was the snack table. This time around I chose Lay's, Oreos, cheese crackers, Nutri-Grain bars, an Uncrustable and a bottle of water.

Looking at the tent from the back - check in at the front, then windbreakers, then snackage
After these tasks, we went out the back and put on our windbreakers, then we took a moment to rearrange our bags.  (I put my clothes down at the bottom of the bag, then the lighter things like snacks on top).

And here we see our beautiful runner modelling the newest in windbreaker fashion!
Pro Tip - Label your bag somehow (I used an envelope) so you know which bag is yours
Once that was done, we found our bus (our badges tell us what bus we need). 

All lined up around the Blizzard Beach Bus Circle
We ended up on Bus #2, which (like all buses) is a nice charter bus.

Yes, we sit by the bathroom; no we don't care (It's generally never used)
Once the bus filled up, we headed over to the Epcot parking lot finish line area.  Our bus actually crossed over the overpass under which the corrals are located, and followed the route (backwards) that runners use to get to the corral. It was cool to show that part to my Hubby. He had no idea how far we runners have to go, while spectators were a hop, skip and a jump away from the start!

We were dropped off behind Gear Check at the pre-run staging area and disembarked.  We were led to a large tent that had hot chocolate and coffee!  Since I couldn’t feel my feet, the hot chocolate was a very welcome perk (one that not all volunteers get!)

It looks like a hot mess, but there's hot chocolate (and coffee) in that thar tent!
All the Medal volunteers met near the Simba Flag (as instructed on our badges). Our Team Leader, Patrick, had us gather round so that he could introduce himself. He had his “Senior VP of Illuminations” – some guy with a light stick – walk us to the Medal Area at the finish line.

The tents across the way were gEAR check
While we were walking, Patrick grabbed my Hubby, dubbed him “Senior VP of Accounting”, and asked him to do a headcount when we got to the Medals Area (right next to the Med Tent).  I could tell already that this Team Leader was gonna be a good one.

Once at the Medals Area, “Senior VP of Accounting” turned in his head count and we gathered around again. Patrick had a bullhorn, which was so great – some team leaders are very quiet! A runDisney staff member (I’m gonna call him Tom since I never got his name) stopped by and explained the RIGHT way to unbox medals. (We did medals at Tower of Terror, and it was CRAZY-HORRIBLE how people did them).

Each box had 3 bundles of 25 medals zip-tied together. We were supposed to take out one bundle, find the center (where all the lanyards were connected), then, standing over a trash can, take all the plastic wrappers off of the medals. Once the plastic was off, we would walk over to the medal stand and place the entire bundle onto a peg without removing the zip-tie.  If you did it right, the medals would all be pointing the same way and look show-ready. If you did it wrong, the medals would be a mess and you’d have to go back and straighten out the entire pile.  Most people did it right, so there wasn’t a lot of fixing to do.

After they were hung, the “Senior VP of Scissors” – me – came around and cut off the zip-ties.  I actually just handed out scissors to anyone who asked for a pair, so half the group hung while the other half cut. We started hanging around 2:45 and we were totally done by 3:45. We had a really bad-ass group of voluntEARs this time! Oh, a little math on those medal racks – 12 medal racks. 6 rows per rack. 10 pegs per row. 25 medals per peg. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND medals were hung up. In an hour.

1500 Medals on this side alone!
Close up of awesome medal
After breaking down the empty boxes that we’d used, we were given a 15-minute break. A small group of people were sent to the Bonus Tent to hang up Goofy and Dopey medals. I used the break to hit the pottie behind the Med Tent and discovered something I never knew about Disney’s potties – there is a coat hook on the door!  Way up at the top, there is a little metal hook – who knew?

Don't let anything fall in!!!! Use the hook!!!
Anyway, when I was done, I went back to the Medals area, where everyone was standing around, drinking coffee or snacking. For me, it was time for what has since been dubbed "Pocket Chicken."  See, I had taken that extra piece of chicken from Long John Silver's with me after lunch, with the full intention of either eating it in the car, or when we got to the hotel. Well, I didn't, so (with it still safely wrapped in multiple napkins) I put it in my pocket of the windbreaker and brought it with me to eat while I waited for the bus. but I forgot again. So, I took it out and began to eat it. ("It's been in my pocket... it's warm and squishy...")  Hubby thought it was about the most disgusting thing he'd ever seen, and it quickly became really funny (we were tired...) Frankly, I thought it tasted perfectly fine.

Pocket Chicken - Breakfast of Champions
At this point, there was LITERALLY nothing to do. Tom came back and said that he was genuinely shocked at how quickly we put everything up. We all kind of just stood around and chit-chatted.  The DJ at the pre-race area was pumping out music. People were really starting to fill up the Race Retreat (the smell of bacon was infuriatingly delicious!)

Hey, bring me some bacon!  And some Mickey waffles!
Lots of the other volunteers were huddled at the fence between Medals and the Med Tent – some of them even curled up on the cold pavement and fell asleep.

Some of the volunteers spent extra time perfecting how the medals were hung – especially the front of the rack, the part the runners see when they come in. I ‘borrowed’ the relative warmth of the med tent to add a layer – adding a fleece quarter-zip brought me up to FIVE layers. I was still cold. Luckily, when I had unrolled the fleece top, the hand warmers that I tucked in to the fleece fell out – I’d completely forgotten about them!  It helped a little, but not a whole lot.

At 5:30ish, you could hear the announcers at the start line start to announce corrals. The energy was high and it was great to hear all the corrals go off.

The Kiddo and I (like many other voluntEARs) borrowed wheelchairs from the med tent to sit in, and soon she was zooming around having wheelchair races with some other voluntEARs.

I just wanted to sit; she wanted to play around
Tom, Patrick, Hubby and I were gathered around, trying to keep track of which corral had just left when Tom showed me something really cool regarding the fireworks they shoot off at each ‘start’.  Most runners (even I) never look behind them, but there is a large firework that goes off BEHIND the final corral, as well as the fireworks that shoot off at and near the start line. You can see in the photo how much space there is between the front and the back!

Front of the corrals                                                                                                          Back of the corrals
After the final corral (P) had taken off, I made my prediction (I do this at every race) that the first finisher would come in around 2:20.

Now the DJ is playing at the Finish Line, trying to ramp up the handful of people that had already made their way to the bleachers.  I had to give him credit – he did the DJ Thing of turning down the music and getting the crowd to sing, but no one in the crowd was warm enough to sing back (at least, that’s how it seemed from our end). It was like “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, singing….. <crickets> “  It was kind of funny.

This cool horse-trailer pulled up soon after that, and we joked that the finisher would ride out on a horse, but a while later the top opened and a Jumbo-Tron popped out! Oh, man I need one of those for my backyard!
What the heck is that thing?
Dude, it's a SCREEN!
Can I find these at Home Depot?
When we heard that the wheelchair racers were about 5 miles away, 12 of us were lined up in a V-formation, each with a few medals. Our shift was almost over, but we would be able to give out a few at least.

Assume the position!
And here we see our beautiful lady modelling the latest in medals!
I was able to give a medal to the 2nd place Wheelchair finisher, David, bib# 20001.  The Kiddo gave a medal to one of the Wheelchair finishers, but further down the chute, he actually gave it back to one of the other voluntEARs because he’d already been given one closer to the finish line.

The first runner, Fredison Costa, finished in 2:18:06 – I was REALLY close with my guess! The second and third place finishers came in within 5 minutes of the winner, so it was a pretty close race.

Fast runner dude
Another fast runner dude
Sadly, at this point, it was time for a shift change, so we passed our medals off to the new voluntEARs, gathered our bags and got in line for Patrick to sign off on our badges. If your Team Leader doesn’t sign off on your badge (which is proof that you worked), you don’t get a ticket back at the voluntEAR tent.

Getting our badge signed off
All signed off, time to walk back to the buses
We hiked back to the bus and collapsed – we were so tired!  It took a while for the bus to get out of the area, due to lots of other buses coming IN to the area. We drove out past the Center for Living Well Family Pharmacy and what looked to be a Cast Member entrance to Epcot.

Back at the Volunteer Tent, we checked in again with our badge and traded in our letter (that we got on Saturday at the Expo) for a FREE One Day, One Park pass. For the first time, it has blockout dates – we’ll be unable to use it from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve.

After leaving, we were headed towards WaWa for some breakfast, and we encountered the runners on Osceola Parkway!  We all rolled down our windows and stuck our hands out and waved and cheered them all on! It was great to see all these guys still looking strong with almost 10 more miles to go!

Once we finished at WaWa, we went BACK to OP just so we could cheer on runners some more, at least until we had to exit at Western Way and go home.

Once on Western Way, however, there was a large traffic jam, due to what looked like an accident.
You can see that it's backed up in the rear view mirror
And you can see how really backed up it is through the windshield
All in all, it was a GREAT weekend.  I don't know if I would do a race during this weekend again - I think I would prefer spending the entire weekend volunteering, even if it is really hard work. It's really REWARDING work, and it makes me feel great to help out fellow runners!